Moving Forward: 13 Things The Wildrose Needs To Do
May 1st, 2012 - J. Hodgson
#1. Purge the Social Conservatives.
Social Conservatism...sigh. I get it. I really do. This first issue alone is worthy of an entire article, but the simple and fast truth of it is, these old school preacher types no longer belong in government. Not just because they hold old school views, but because they are ignorant of the modern and liberal realities of the world around them. They are not cunning or professional and the liberal media salivates over their very presence. It's the social conservative voters you want to attract, and you can do this by staying conservative in other areas and speaking in So-Con code. They'll still vote for you because everyone else is liberal now.
#2. Get better candidates in general.
I hate the idea that everyone in politics needs to be a career politician or an executive level dude with a law degree, but on the other hand, you don't want bus loads of random rookies filling the voter cards. I heard one online poster put it this way: "Danielle Smith is all right, but the Randy's surrounding her are nothing to get excited about". You've got four years to get better candidates and properly vet them. If they pose a liability then get rid of them. Screw grassroots democratic participation. You can't lose entire elections just because you're respecting a local riding group in their choice of candidate.
#3. Drop the direct democracy stuff.
Pitching stuff like voter recall and referendums is simply not saleable to the general public. Most people don't even want to vote once every four years and you're telling them they can petition and start plebiscites and what not? They don't want it. They aren't interested. It just sounds like more work. Mostly, however, this type of stuff is associated with Quebec and fringe groups and it sounds shady.
#4. Leave the RCMP alone.
Hardcore conservatives are cynical about the RCMP, but the general public still thinks of them as the red coat wonders that helped settle the west. Due South was a rare Canadian television hit for a reason. It tapped into our mythology. Don't fight mythology.
#5. Don't touch healthcare.
During an election all people want to know about healthcare is....will it be better and still free? If you answer anything other than yes, you've lost them. When Danielle Smith gets up to the podium and starts talking about healthcare reform models that use public dollars to fund private clinics and then cites successful examples from countries like Japan and Sweden...nobody knows what the hell she's talking about.
There are only two healthcare systems in the minds of Canadians. Canadian-style universal healthcare in which everything is free and American-style user pay healthcare in which nothing is free. So promise the first kind and then make the reforms after you win power.
#6. Never talk about liberal issues.
Don't explain the Wildrose philosophy in regards to liberal issues. If you're explaining, then you're losing. Abortion, climate change, gay marriage.....just stop the discussion and if you must talk, speak in liberal terms. Harper knows how to play within the liberal frame. He talks the talk and then purposely fails miserably at walking the walk. It's beautiful because conservatives get it and liberals are frustrated beyond all reason.
#7. Forget Danni-dollars.
It was a terrific idea and could be something to put in place once elected, but as a campaign promise it looked game-showish. I thought it would score well with the cheap seats, but having the government just straight up hand out money to voters? Well, it’s a bit too cheesy...even by today's standards. Better to promise lower income taxes.
#8. Replace the old guard.
The ‘Calgary School’ Club needs to be laid to rest. They've been great. Tom Flanagan ran a solid campaign. It was a good run, but some new blood needs to move things forward. Without burning bridges, it’s time for some new thinkers.
#9. Steal some ideas from the left.
Preston Manning said politics should be like hockey. You don't build a team with people only playing right-wing. There were a couple of small leftists ideas that could be stolen and put into the Wildrose Party arsenal in order to round out the platform. (Or move to the "centre" to use liberal speak). The PC's proposed that insulin pumps should be covered under our health care mandate. Brian Mason of the NDP proposed spending $50 million a year on children's dental needs. Both these ideas aren't bad and a couple of leftist tokens would make the Roses look more well rounded.
#10. Forget about conscience rights.
I know there are some anecdotal incidents in regards to human rights being trampled and the Human Rights Commissions are terrible things. However, most people don't know about this stuff and they don't care. Trying to make an issue out of things that most people don't know about or care about is bad policy. Don't talk about it and simply do what you want once you win power.
#11. Forget about an Alberta Pension Plan
The Canadian Pension Plan is actually pretty good. It's well managed and funded. Albertans don't want to take on the cost and the management, even if it means better returns. Forget about it for now.
#12. Modernize the campaign.
$20,000 for a couple of direct mail outs per riding? Driving around like idiots trying to put little lawns signs up? Waving teams? This stuff sucks and sucks bad. It's 2012. When people receive political junk mail they immediately toss it. When people see crappy lawn signs up in their neighbours yard, it means nothing to them. When people are out in groups waving at traffic it just looks pathetic.
Modern campaigns should focus on three things:
1. Television/radio ads.
2. Online ads/social media.
3. Face-to-face campaigns.
#13. Don't sweat it.
Opinions are like noses. Everyone has one. Don't listen to all the pollsters and pundits. The Wildrose Party ran a good solid campaign. There were a few mistakes, but the reality is the election loss was the result of leftists abandoning the Liberals and voting for the PC's. Traditional PC's also got cold feet at the last minute and stuck with who they knew. Four years from now you could probably run the same campaign and due to time and familiarity, people would vote for the Wildrose Party in numbers that would allow for a majority.
In conclusion, I don't believe this election result is that bad. The PC's received their lowest share of the popular vote since 1967. The Wildrose Party is the official opposition and has a base of voters numbering over 300,000. With time and effort and some watering down of policy the Wildrose Party will be poised to return true conservatism to the province of Alberta.